Panther Island Adventures!

Panther Island is 2,800 acres of restored wetland and upland habitats situated in the northwest corner of Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary's 13,000 acres. It is home to numerous plants and animals including the Florida panther and the iconic wood stork.
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Tuesday, July 31, 2012

HR 5864 Wrap-up!

And finally...the last 2 sections!

In Sec. 17 Relationship to Other Federal Laws, the writing makes clear that this new law would NOT change any federal laws already in existence that relate to live animal imports that impact human health, farm animal health, food safety or animals that are used in biological control projects.

And Sec. 18 Requirements to Promulgate Regulations directs the Secretary of the Interior to promulgate (to make known by open declaration; publish; proclaim formally or put into operation (a law, decree of a court, etc.) regulations as necessary to carry out the Act.

Now you might ask is there proof that a preventive and proactive system such as this is worth it...does it work? Well there are other countries that have successful pre-screening programs in place. These include Israel, New Zealand, and Australia.

Now if you start researching the topic of live import animals and legislation, you will likely come across a bill that was introduced in 2009 known as HR 669 (The Nonnative Wildlife Invasion Prevention Act). This did not have the support it needed to pass for numerous reasons I won't go into. One of the great things about the current proposed bill is that it took the feedback given on HR 669 into consideration but it still has teeth to accomplish effective change!

Tune in next time when I tackle the issue of raising your voice in support of this or any bill you choose!

Monday, July 30, 2012

Almost there....HR 5864

Alright so the next section covers the Relationship to State Law (Sec. 14). Under the injurious species section of the Lacey Act, regulation of intra-state activities is left with states. Stricter state laws are not preempted. And this section honors that while establishing a federal-state system that will facilitate better coordination.

Sec. 15 covers Penalties and Sanctions. The civil and criminal penalties for violations of this new Act follow those already established for the violations of the injurious species section of the Lacey Act.

In Sec. 16 (Injurious Wildlife Prevention Fund), a special injurious Wildlife Prevention Fund is created. This will hold revenues from user fees and fines collected via enforcement (under this Act) Three-fourths of this fund will be paid to USFWS in order to cover the costs of this Act. One-fourth will be awarded in the form of grants to state agencies to help in efforts to improve risk assessment and regulation for the live animal trade in their state.

Economics Fact: the total US cost resulting from invasive animals and diseases brought in by them is estimated to be up to $35 BILLION PER YEAR!!!

Let's protect our heritage! Tomorrow I will wrap up the break down of HR 5864.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

HR 5864...I think I can, I think I can...

Alright...Time for another 2 sections!

Sec. 12. Permits and Exemptions for Qualified Institutions and Live Animal Transporters. Some of you might have already been wondering about places like zoos and aquariums and even universities which do house non-native critters. This section establishes a permitting process for importation and interstate commerce in Injurious I species. It also incorporates an exemption from that permit for the importation and interstate commerce in Injurious II species IF carried out by certain qualified institutions. These include places like universities, research facilities, wildlife rescue facilities, and accredited zoos and aquaria.

And how is this all going to be paid for? In the current economy, the government doesn't want to burden the taxpayer even more (although by NOT preventing importation of potential invaders we end up spending billions of dollars annually trying to fix the problem after-the-fact). Sec. 13. User Fees sets up a limited user fee to recover a portion of the costs of the federal activities needed in order to collect wildlife trade information as well as assess and regulate its risks. The purpose of the user fee is to recover approximately 75% of the Service's costs of the services it provides under this Act.

Monday, July 23, 2012

HR 5864...and the info keeps a'comin'!

Bear with me folks, this is really an important piece of legislation I hope y'all will support by contacting your local Congressman/woman!

Last time I left off at Sec. 9. Sec. 10 is the Prevention of Wildlife Pathogens and Parasites. Imagine what would happen if a disease came into this country that decimated our wildlife? Oh wait, this is already happening from the accidental introduction of a fungus from Europe, and now biologists are racing to figure out how to protect our bats who are our number one natural night-time pest controllers (just google white-nose syndrome). Sec. 10 provides the USFWS clear legal authority in the prevention of importing pathogens or parasites that could impact our wildlife.

Next up is Sec. 11. Prohibitions. The importation and interstate commerce of live non-native animal species has to be done in compliance with this Act. However, it doesn't regulate intra-state movement (private possession, breeding, etc.) and leaves this power with the states. It also allows for exemptions, including for the interstate transportation of lawfully-owned private pets that are later regulated under this Act (assuming the interstate trnasportation is for non-commercial purposes). Phew, that one is a mouthful!

Still with me? I hope so!

Mexican long-tongued bat in Arizona

Monday, July 16, 2012

HR 5864 Break down continued...

Alright...gotta keep the bus moving on this!

This bill has more "teeth" than the Lacey Act did. Sec. 6 is devoted to Emergency Temporary Designation. This section provides the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services (USFWS) with emergency authority in the event an unregulated non-native wildlife species poses an imminent threat of harm. It also allows for state governors to request action.

How are all these species going to be monitored you ask? Well Section 7 (Information on Imported Animals) sets up an online system for animal imports and will require accurate species identification in order to monitor the trade.

Section 8 is the Injurious Wildlife Determinations Section. In the Lacey Act, the average listing time of a new import species is 4 years! This is WAY TOO SLOW. In that time, animals can already establish reproductively viable populations. This section directs USFWS to make the injurious species determinations more rapidly (180 days vs. 1460 days!). Additionally it provides for mechanisms to reduce the costly bureaucratic processes.

Now some of you might be wondering about conflicts with the Lacey Act. Section 9 is the Effects on Injurious Wildlife Provision. This provides regulations under this updated Act that would supersede conflicting regulations under the Lacey Act injurious species section. however, the new Act does NOT repeal or amend any portion of the Lacey Act.

Section 9 marks the halfway point in the breakdown of HR 5864.

Again, we need to be PROACTIVE and PREVENTIVE!

Thursday, July 12, 2012

HR 5864 Break down...

Hello all! I am back...and ready to inform you more on this important House bill. Here is a synopsis of the bill.

Purpose: to establish an improved Federal regulatory process (one that is preemptive and proactive instead of knee-jerk and after-the-fact!) for the importation of living non-native animals in order to prevent economic and environmental harm as well as harm to human or animal health

Definitions: The bill contains 15 definitions. As an example, I pulled the below directly from the bill online.
"(4) IMPORT- The term ‘import’ means to bring into, or introduce into, or attempt to bring into, or introduce into, any place subject to the jurisdiction of the United States, regardless of whether the bringing into or introduction constitutes an importation within the meaning of the customs laws of the United States."

A major component of this section of the bill is defining the exempt domesticated species...basically it exempts the most common pet species. The government isn't going to come and knock on a person's door and require that they give up their dog, cat, goat, gerbil, etc. (See bill for a complete list!). The emphasis of this bill is on wild animals, not domesticated or farm species!

A section is devoted to the "Proposals for regulation of Nonnative Wildlife Taxa...basically it does in depth on how all species are to be regulated. this regulation process will be a rigorous and well-defined proposal process.

A HUGELY important facet of this bill is devoted to the listing process (See Sec 5. Scientific Risk Assessment and Risk Determination Regulations in HR 5864): This establishes a flexible two-tiered injurious species listing process. Building on the pre-existing Lacey Act (sets "injuriousness standards in 18 USC sec. 42.), Injurious I and Injurious II is based on a clear and risk assessment and risk determination process. For more details Sec. 5 of HR 5864

Ok so I don't want to overwhelm people on this! I'll continue to breakdown the bill a little more over the next week.

BOTTOM LINE: We need to be proactive and preventive so we can save ourselves money and our natural heritage!

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Invasive Fish and Wildlife Prevention Act of 2012 (H.R. 5864)

My recent trip for work to Washington, D.C. was an exercise in policy advocacy. While I am on the front lines of the battle against invasive species, I don't always know the best steps to maximize raising my voice for a cause. Any opinion in this blog is strictly my own and NOT that of Corkscrew or Audubon Florida! The Invasive Fish and Wildlife Prevention Act of 2012, in my opinion, is a step in the right direction in our battle against invasive species. Florida, with its very unique subtropical weather and range of habitats, has had more than 500 nonnative species of fish and wildlife observed here. Most of these were introduced through the pet trade, whether it be accidental or intentional release by pet owners. Some invasive species wreaking havoc include: 1) Burmese pythons, 2) Nile monitor lizards, 3) Gambian pouched rats, and 4) monk parakeets to name just a few. In addition to environmental degradation, these invasives are costing us, the taxpayers, millions of dollars a year! This money could be going into other programs or staying in our pocketbooks. The beauty of this bill is that it takes a pro-active approach to stopping invasives species from coming into the country. It's preventive! I could bend your ear on this topic, but instead I think I will break it up over a serious of blog topics to tackle different aspects of this bills benefits (and yes, its drawbacks). But the bottom line is this...if you feel passionate about an issue such as this, pick up your phone, turn on your computer...raise your voice and let your congressman/woman know that you want them to vote for or against a bill! IT does have an impact on them to have their constituents reach out with their opinions to them. If you want to read H.R. 5864 in its entirety, just cut and paste this link (link isn't working on here for some reason). And stay tuned...I'll bend your ear, so to speak, frequently on this topic over the coming weeks!